All Over the Place: Easter Soup
Issue 6: Żurek
While canned soups are few and far between here in Poland, powdered soups are quite common. Boil a few cups of water, stir in powder, and you’ve got soup in one of many varieties: ogórkowa (dill pickle soup), rosół (chicken soup), grzybowa and pieczarkowa (mushroom soups), grochówka (split pea soup), and my favorite, żurek.
You might have noticed that żurek did not get a simple translation, and that’s because it doesn’t really have one. The base of żurek is fermented barley, giving it an uncommon sour flavor that is complimented by adding hard boiled eggs and sausage to the broth.
My family refers to it as Easter soup, as we serve it alongside ham at Easter dinner and only occasionally at other times of the year. In Poland, it is served at Easter but also throughout the rest of the year.
But żurek and Easter soup have another difference besides their names. The eggs and sausage remain the same, but instead of fermented barley, Easter soup broth derives much of its flavor from horseradish.
It’s obvious that żurek and Easter soup are variations on a theme, but it’s not obvious why they are different. Is my family’s Easter soup recipe a regional variant of żurek? Is my family’s Easter soup unchanged from when they left Europe, while it continued to develop and change in Poland? Conversely, was Easter soup changed in the United States to reflect differences in ingredient availability or flavor preferences? (I’ve never looked for fermented barley in an American grocery store, but I can’t say that I’ve ever seen it, either.)
Whatever the reason for the differences, I’m just happy that I have easy access to żurek here, and will continue to enjoy it regularly as long as I am in Poland. A package of powdered soup, which is enough to make about 750mL (about three cups), usually costs about 2 or 3 PLN (about 0.50 or 0.75 USD).
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